Abu Dhabi (UAE) – The Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi on 11-12 Marchpromises to be the most high-voltage event in nine years of season openers at the spectacular UAE capital. In a field energized by new pilots, new team members, new technology and a new format – not to mention a tantalizing vacancy at the top with the retirement of 2015 World Champion Paul Bonhomme – the title is there for the taking. For the team that would seize that opportunity, 2016 must be a season of no excuses.
The field of 14 of the world’s best pilots is fully packed with contenders: such asAustralia’s Matt Hall, a member of the talented “Class of 2009” who missed the 2015 Championship by only five points, and Czech ace Martin Šonka, who finished just off the overall podium. Add in perennial podium threats including three former World Champions, plus two new pilots from Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and Abu Dhabi will be an important indicator of which teams have the goods to step up.
The pilots will need every advantage they can get, not only for battling the blazing desert heat, but because in a race where victory can hinge on thousandths of a second, a fresh format now also puts more emphasis on time in the early rounds. Technology and teamwork are key. Numerous teams will be showing off new or radically modified raceplanes (several with new sponsor support), and many have changed or expanded their team lineup, with tacticians and tactical software now almost indispensable.
With so much on the line, no team can afford to consider their 2016 debut as a mere test of assets and strategies, much less to rationalize a poor result.
“Equate the season opener to the Start Gate of the racetrack: if you don’t get through that first benchmark up to speed, there’s going to be a lot more pressure to create momentum going forward, especially when so many pilots have a realistic shot at the title,” says Race Director Steve Jones. “There’s always so much excitement around the first race, and the teams are eager for the challenge. In Abu Dhabi they’ve got a fantastic place to take it on.”
Abu Dhabi is a glamorous event in the eight-race season, with spectators lining the Corniche on the Persian Gulf, including high society taking in the high-speed, low-altitude action from the Sky Lounge.
The 2016 season of the ultimate motorsport series in the sky kicks off in Abu Dhabi on 11-12 March. Tickets for most races, including Abu Dhabi and the first-ever stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are on sale now. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com